Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden
The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is vast and stunning with an array of flora and fauna, a waterfall, educational walks and even a black eagle which nests atop the waterfall kraans. It is open weekdays and weekends and will sometimes have a show or celebration happening. They also have a mini-train that operates on weekends – great fun for the kids (and possibly the only operational mini-train in Gauteng).
Tip: Make sure you call before you go as I’m sure you don’t want to take your significant other on a romantic picnic to find that Robbie Wessels is throwing it down over the loud speakers all day.
Venue: End of Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort.
This one’s for the dog lovers out there. Walkhaven started in 2006 with the strict purpose of being a safe environment to exercise your pooches. Walkhaven has a restaurant, a kennel and a function venue with hordes of families making the trek to spend the day with their family and man’s best friend. It’s situated in quaint Muldersdrift on a 22 hectare plot of rolling grassland featuring a little dam for your dogs’ enjoyment.
Tip: Visit their website for info on getting an annual pass, which also entitles you to other perks.
Venue: Plot 77, Zwartkop, Johannesburg.
Another great picnic venue, Gillooly’s is a staple on the more eastern side of town. This big piece of grassland features everything from braai areas (very rare in parks these days) to conference venues. They even have a restaurant on the property. It’s beautiful, safe and is perfect for picnicking with friends as you can braai and play sport or suntan on the lovely flat and soft grass.
Tip: Saturdays tend to be a little busy and sometimes, there can be a bit of ruckus (they don’t only allow braaing but also alcohol, which is fun for some… not so fun for all).
Venue: Boeing Road West, Germiston, Johannesburg.
Emmarentia Botanical Gardens
The central Joburg contingent, Emmarentia Dam and Botanical Gardens, is the perfect venue for a picnic. You don’t pay entrance and are exposed to a world of beauty and a view of the city which intrinsically forms the ambience of the park. It’s known for the dam on the property and more recently for the big live music shows hosted there. They also offer paddle boat hire and benches skirting the dam. This is the most popular park in central Johannesburg and is a must for people who haven’t yet visited and even those that have.
Fact: The Emmarentia Botanical Gardens is in fact not one of the eight National Botanic Gardens, it’s run by the Joburg Parks Department. Walter Sisulu on the other hand is a National Botanic Garden and is therefore run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Venue: Olifants Road, Emmarentia, Johannesburg.
Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij
A personal favourite of mine, Van Gaalen is a cheese factory, although using the word factory when referring to this little slice of tranquillity would be blasphemy. They do Gouda and only Gouda and they do it well. From aged cheeses to young, softer ones their Gouda is immaculate but enough about their cheeses before I start drooling on my keyboard. The property boasts a restaurant, a small quiet river and, of course, the cheese ‘factory’. They provide tours of the cheese making process and allow patrons to use their property for picnics.
Tip: If you phone a day ahead they will make you a picnic basket on the banks of the Skeerpoort river. Another tip would be to book ahead for their restaurant if you ever plan on heading out there because it can get busy.
Venue: Skeerpoort off the R512 (turn off towards Magaliesburg). Call or visit their website for more info.
That’s my top 5 but as I said before, there are lots more to choose from. Below are a few places to get your picnic planning going:
- Zoo Lake
- Ethel and James Grey Park and Bird Sanctuary
- Riversands Farm, just off William Nicol
- Rietvlei Nature Reserve
- Your very own back garden
by Byron Marais
Remember that our “Top Picks” are not paid for and are compiled at the discretion of the journalist. We only write about what we love.